Upon first entering CCES Head Athletic Trainer MJ Suber’s on-campus office, it is not unusual to see the room busy with a steady stream of students coming in and out. While some are there to get ankles taped before practice or to touch base on rehab progress, many are there just to be around MJ. Suber jokingly says he sometimes has to kick students out, but it’s clear he loves having them around. After all, students are a big reason he got into this line of work and continues to love what he does.
For MJ, athletics were a huge part of his experience when he was in high school. He was a three-sport athlete playing football and basketball as well as running track. When he first started thinking about his future career, he liked the idea of combining his love for sports and his desire to be in the medical field. He briefly considered orthopedic surgery before deciding on athletic training, which still allows him to diagnose and help rehab injuries, but also gives him the opportunity to be on the sidelines. Every hour of every day is different, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
After graduating with degrees in both Exercise Science and Athletic Training, MJ worked at Boiling Springs High School before starting here at CCES in January of 2018. Early in his career, he had a few opportunities to work in collegiate athletics at the Division 1 level – a full football season with Furman and basketball camp with Duke. He calls both “great experiences” but eventually made the decision to pursue working at the high school level, in large part due to the more flexible schedule which allows for more time with family. MJ and his high school sweetheart turned wife, Brooke, welcomed their first child last December.
However, another large aspect of his eventual decision to move away from collegiate athletics was how much he enjoys working with high school students. He says he feels “more purpose here” and cherishes the relationships he has been able to build with the athletes. As an athletic trainer, he wears a lot of hats. He’s part EMT, physical therapist, and psychiatrist to name a few. While he loves being able to put all his medical knowledge to use in diagnosing and rehabbing injuries, he just as much enjoys being an encourager and dispensing advice when appropriate. He says, “There is so much I wish someone would have told me at that age, and it’s great being able to share some of those lessons with these kids.”
From the moment an athlete goes down – in a game or during practice – MJ is there every step of the way. Through evaluating, diagnosing, and rehabbing if necessary, his goal is to be a steady presence. At times, this includes some hard conversations when he has to pull athletes from games or keep them out longer than they want. He says, “I try to help them focus on the end goal and, during the long journey of rehab, I help them set mini goals to make it feel more manageable.”
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about MJ without also mentioning his constant dancing on the sidelines, especially during the fan favorite “Church Clap.” It’s this same energy that also makes him the first to celebrate – whether it’s cheering on a touchdown or sprinting on to the field during an overtime win in penalty kicks. No matter what sport or what team is playing, he is always ready to cheer on the Cavaliers.
MJ is greatly beloved in the CCES community, but perhaps nowhere more so than among the coaches and athletes. Varsity Football Head Coach Quin Hatfield and Varsity Girls Soccer Head Coach Ashley Seeley both describe MJ as “reliable, knowledgeable, and hard-working.” Hatfield says, “MJ is a great listener. He really dials into what the athlete is saying and how the body is responding.” Seeley calls MJ “the gift that keeps on giving” because he always goes above and beyond for these athletes. Beyond helping with injuries, he’s always there to “cheer louder than anyone” and his “door is always open to lend an ear, give a smile, or just spend time with someone.”
Director of Athletics and Head Varsity Girls Lacrosse Coach, Molly Miller, calls MJ “a valued member of our athletic department” and someone who is “critical to the successes of our programs.” She says: “It is comforting to know that MJ is there whenever injuries occur. He is knowledgeable, conscientious in his assessments, and remains calm in all situations. MJ’s commitment to our student-athletes is unparalleled. Their health and safely remain at the forefront of his decision-making.”
Athletes all agree that MJ is the best when it comes to helping them with injuries and getting them back as soon as safely possible. Laken Jorgensen ’22 shares that MJ is there for both the big and the small injuries, always there to help rehab but also making it fun with his music and dancing. She says: “MJ has helped shape my sports experience and leadership qualities over the past four years greatly.” Will Jones ’22 says MJ “always goes the extra mile” for him and other athletes, keeping everyone safe and helping them recover quickly. He adds: “MJ is also an open person who you can talk to freely, and he can brighten your day at any time.”
Ansley Epley ’23 calls MJ “one of the biggest assets to CCES Athletics.” Epley suffered a major soccer injury last spring that kept her out for a month, and MJ worked with her “every day and even some weekends” to help get her back as soon as possible. During her first game back, he yelled out to her, “Yeah, you’re back!” after her first shot on goal, and she says, “That gave me reassurance to keep playing and to have trust that my ankle will hold up.” Epley wants to pursue sports medicine and has been spending afternoons with MJ. She says, “Watching him work every day, I see how comfortable he makes everyone feel. When someone is hurt and not sure if they will be able to play, he somehow always makes them feel better.”
Emma Glenn ’21 certainly knows a thing or two about injuries and the importance of having someone in your corner during the rehab process. She suffered four major injuries during her soccer career, but MJ was a steady presence for her as she continually worked to get back to the field. She calls MJ “family” because he “stood by my side through some of the hardest moments in my life.” Glenn shares: “He not only got me back on the field, but made me smile while doing so. MJ was by my side during training, especially on the days I didn’t want to, and he never let me leave without feeling accomplished. MJ deserves to be recognized each and every day and I hope he knows that.”